Religious belief prevents animal adoption
Originally published August 08, 2009
By Patti S. Bord
Religious beliefs and public policy are keeping at least one of the many cats at the Frederick County Animal Control Center from finding a home.
Tammy Rippeon, of Braddock Heights, said she went with her 20-year-old son, Jonathan, who goes by Jonny, to the shelter to get a cat and found one for him, and maybe one for herself. The requirements for adoption included three pages of paperwork, an interview and an agreement that the family would have an identification microchip placed in the cat for a $15 fee.
"I've never seen such a long process to adopt an animal," Tammy Rippeon said.
The deal-breaker was the microchip, used by Animal Control officers in the field and shelter staff members to identify pet ownership and residence quickly.
"It's against our belief to have it microchipped," Tammy Rippeon said. "We're Christians, and it's a sign of the mark of the beast. ... It's the signs of the future to come."
The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice. At the shelter, a veterinary technician inserts the microchip beneath the skin in the neck-shoulder area, using a device like a large syringe. The hole closes up immediately, and the microchip doesn't move around, said technician Pam Meeker. The process takes a few moments. The microchip data are registered by the shelter, which updates the information when the pet is adopted or reclaimed by an owner.
Microchipping all dogs, cats, puppies and kittens that come into the shelter has been policy, approved by the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners, since Jan. 17, 2006, said Harold Domer, director of Frederick County Animal Control. While it may seem inflexible, the policy was enacted in the interest of animal safety.
"The benefits to the lifetime of the animal outweigh the concerns of microchipping," Domer said. "We're a shelter that wants to assure the safety and welfare of animals."
The practice received high praise in an assessment of the shelter by Cornell University in September 2008. The Cornell report cited the microchipping and scanning for microchips as one of the shelter's strong points.
Domer said that 52 percent of animals that come to the shelter are strays, with no identification. The shelter holds animals for five days before making them available for adoption, to give owners some time to claim their pets.
More cats come to the shelter than any other animal group. In fiscal 2009, the shelter received 6,146 animals: 2,161 cats, 1,464 kittens; 1,731 dogs, 190 puppies. Dogs and puppies tend to find homes quickly enough to leave kennel space available, Domer said, but not so with cats and kittens. Shelter overpopulation is one factor considered for euthanasia.
"Cats and kittens are euthanized because of population," Domer said. "Shelter population space is very important."
May through October is an especially busy time for cat population growth, he said.
A microchip can instantly identify an owner, and reduce the animal's stay at the shelter.
"We know statistically that 95 percent of animals that have identification are returned to owners," Domer said.
Few cats come in with collars or any external identification, he said.
Tammy Rippeon was told the microchip was a safeguard in the event the cat was lost, but she finds that unnecessary based on 20 years of animal ownership and previous adoptions.
"We've never lost an animal yet," she said. "It's not like we're losing animals. ... I'll give them the $15" if that would satisfy them, she said.
"They're always pressing the issue that they want these animals to get a good home," said Jonny Rippeon. "If it wasn't for my religious belief, I would have gotten a cat. ... I feel it's discrimination."
Domer said his staff members are doing all they can to make sure animals find homes and return home when lost.
"None of us are interested in stopping any adoption," Domer said.
Even in the best homes with animals, Domer said, "They get loose. Nobody's perfect; things happen, and they happen quickly."
Dogs and cats are already part of the Rippeon family, and the plan was for Jonny to keep the cat as an indoor pet in his basement apartment.
A previous cat that never went outside lived to be 18 in Jonny's care, and, when the cat's health failed, Tammy Rippeon said, "My son did everything he could to save that cat's life."
"I've had pets since I was a young child," Jonny Rippeon said. He said his home could be inspected and his veterinarian could answer questions about the pets' care.
"I don't want to have the mark of the beast on my pet," said Jonny.
It was more than 15 years ago that the family last adopted an animal, Tammy Rippeon said. "Back then you didn't have to go through all this."
Ah, a local crazy news story.
So much for love and compassion. That poor kitty may end up being put down if no one adopts it. Ah, but that's OK I guess, since it doesn't have a soul or anything...
And I can't help but wonder how a micro-chip is 'the mark of the beast'. Come to think of it, a cat is a 'beast' on their terms, so I guess it fits. :p While they are somehow finding this against their beliefs, I donate to the ASPCA and my family actually took in 3 stray (which we found out was actually 6). And then to claim discrimination! That's absurd! The rules are the rules. It's not like they are requiring adopters to be heterosexual white males that are Yankee's fans. Yes, the Christians are being oppressed again... *rolls eyes*